Danny Ings declared himself 'in the best physical shape' to continue pushing for a place in a Liverpool side that he believes has reached the high point of his time with the club so far.
Last weekend’s 3-0 victory over Bournemouth capped off an outstanding fortnight for the Reds in which they defeated Manchester City to reach the Champions League semi-finals and remained on course for another Premier League top-four finish.
The front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah were each on target at Anfield on Saturday to increase their cumulative total for the season to 82 goals.
A knock-on effect of their devastating form is the limitation of Ings’ opportunities in the team – but the determined striker, who made his first start in two-and-a-half years at Everton this month, is a glass-half-full character.
“I learn all the time from all of the players,” he told Liverpoolfc.com.
“After being out for a long period of time, it’s hard for players to maintain the levels of quality and try to keep up with the team. A few months ago I felt like I was quite a way off the first team due to my injuries and coming back and it taking time – which is totally normal with knees.
“But I watch and learn, especially from our front three; they are just exceptional with their movement, timing and quality on the ball. Even if I’m not playing with them, I can watch them and learn.
“That’s what I tried to do for the period that I was off. Now that I’m back and I’m in the best physical shape I can possibly be in, I give it everything every single day. Everybody knows that. That’s what I’ll keep doing – I’ll keep pushing.”
It was a quirk of the calendar – so typical of football – that Ings’ maiden appearance in the Liverpool XI under Jürgen Klopp came at the same location of his previous start in October 2015: Goodison Park.
The Englishman admitted to a ‘strange’ feeling to come full circle in that way but feels the 89 minutes he clocked up that afternoon will serve him well if selected again at West Bromwich Albion tomorrow.
“That game was definitely a huge up for me after everything I’ve been through. It was a tough period for me. To come back in that game was a great moment,” said Ings.
“Behind the scenes I’ve played a lot of football this year for the U23s, I’ve been training every single day and I’ve not needed rest days. I’ve been training every day with the squad. I’m in very good shape.
“The Everton game was good for me to get those minutes in my legs. All respect to the U23s games, it is not the same as first-team football.
“It was quite an intense game to come into and it was quite difficult but I felt like I had to do a job for the team; we were under the cosh quite a lot. It was a good moment for me to go back there and play, after that was my last start. It meant a lot but it is definitely something I want to build on.”
Liverpool journey to The Hawthorns off the back of what has become a rare week without a fixture – and Ings is sure Klopp’s men will benefit from a mini-break.
But given that the bottom-of-the-table Baggies were victorious at Old Trafford last time out, the Reds must be at their maximum level again to secure three points.
“We have been training so hard to try to get the best results at the weekend as in the week. In all of the big games, from the Premier League to the Champions League, each game is the same. Having a week’s rest is definitely going to benefit us this weekend,” explained the No.28.
“You really can’t take your eye off the ball. They got a result against United, a strong team, so it just shows we’ve got to be focused in every minute of every game.
“It’s irrelevant whether it’s the semi-final of the Champions League or the Premier League. They are fighting for survival and it’s definitely not going to be an easy game.”
As Liverpool’s season has developed and improved, the genuine friendship and camaraderie within the squad has become increasingly apparent.
Last summer’s signings, for example, have brought not just their individual quality to the team but their personality too, strengthening the unity of a largely young group.
Andy Robertson wind-ups notwithstanding – “he tries… he thinks he’s taller than me” – it is an environment Ings relishes and one he argues is contributing to results on the pitch.
“That is vital for any football team because it really does make the difference,” he said.
“Players at Liverpool are going to be quality players but the other stuff is just as important – the day-to-day banter and the laughs.
“But when you are training it’s all serious and everybody grafts for each other. That’s showing on the pitch at the moment, you can see the relationships we have with each other and everybody wants to work as hard as they can. It’s very evident at the moment.
“There have been quite a lot of positive moments but this one definitely tops it. The last few weeks have been incredible. And we don’t want it to end now – we want to keep building and to keep pushing the boundaries.”
Join Jürgen Klopp, the first team, Ladies and Academy players at the 2018 LFC Players’ Awards at Anfield on Thursday May 10. Click here for more details.